Classic rock band Styx had big plans for 2020.
Lawrence Gowan, lead singer for the band, said Styx had a full schedule with more than 100 tour dates planned.
“Styx had already played some shows in January and February,” the singer said.
The band, best known for hits like “Renegade,” “Babe” and “Come Sail Away,” was working on material for a new record and then everything came to a halt.
Gowan was at the airport when he got the call from the band’s tour manager.
Gowan, who performs Sunday night with Styx at the State Fair of West Virginia in Fairlea, said, “I’m getting my bags out of the car and my pocket buzzes. It’s our tour manager, George, and I think he’s checking to make sure I’m getting on the plane OK.”
The singer, who joined the band in the late 1990s, was on his way from Toronto to meet up with his bandmates in the U.S. to begin the next leg of the group’s 2020 tour, but the tour manager told him, “Go home. The NBA just canceled their entire season. It doesn’t look like we’re going to be playing shows for a few weeks.”
Gowan laughed about that — weeks.
It would turn out to be more than a year, but he got back in the car and started home.
“Over the radio, I heard the NHL had canceled their season, too,” he said.
From there, everything changed. Tour dates for the band scheduled for April were pushed back to June. Then tour dates rescheduled for June were pushed back to August and then to whenever.
“It turns out you had a choice of what you could do,” Gowan said. “You could plow ahead with the social media and different methods to stay connected or you could take the year off and go smell the flowers.”
He said he split it down the middle. He livestreamed some solo shows and did some corporate work, entertaining and engaging with the employees of companies who were doing their annual conventions virtually.
The musician worked on his craft, particularly sound engineering, working through technical tutorials for weeks on end.
“And I discovered the joys of getting on my bicycle and riding around for a couple of hours a day in Toronto,” he said.
It helped him stay in shape and meanwhile, he, Styx guitarist and singer Tommy Shaw and songwriter/producer Will Evankovich continued work on the band’s next record.
“We had all but two songs written prior to the pandemic,” Gowan said.
Which he thought was almost eerie because those songs related so well to the pandemic and where they were.
Working in separate spaces, but united by technology, the various members of the band recorded, “Crash of the Crown,” which was released in June, just after Styx returned to touring.
Getting back on the road has been great. Audiences have been warm and welcoming.
“It’s really quite remarkable to see the reaction on people’s faces,” Gowan said.
The pandemic is still a concern, Gowan added. He said the members of Styx tend to maintain something of a bubble among themselves and they hope their audience is doing what it can to keep themselves safe and happy under the circumstances.
“Hopefully, that’s going to lead to good things up the road,” the singer said.
Gowan said the band had high hopes for the future. They have a lot of shows ahead and something like a date with destiny.
Feb. 22, 2022 will be the 50th anniversary of Styx, something that would have seemed impossible when Gowan was just a kid listening to rock n’ roll on the radio.
“The first half of the 20th century was all about jazz,” he said. “The second half was dominated by rock n’ roll, but it seemed very transient back then.”
Rock bands appeared on the radio, released a record or two and were often gone in a couple of years.
Rock has turned out to be more enduring.
“I look out at the crowd now and half the audience is under 35,” he said. “We’ve absolutely got kids out in the front row.”
It amazes him.
WANT TO GO?
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: State Fair of West Virginia
TICKETS: $35, $40 and $45